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Product/Market Hackathon

August 22, 2015 - August 23, 2015


This codeless hackathon is open to students and faculty at UVA. Its objective is to take a venture idea and drive to a conclusion on its ability to connect with demand, also known as ‘product/market fit’.


Event Description

We’re hosting a codeless hackathon focused on product/market fit, the highly desirable state where you’re innovative new product idea finds a customer who reliably wants to buy it (or use it).

Here are answers to questions you may have about this: 

Why would I want to go?

You have an idea for an incredible new startup that may make you wealthy and fulfilled (or, just as good, you want to participate in one). You know that there are a lot of things you could do to get started. Or maybe you feel stuck. If you’ve talked with others, you probably know that it’s easy to spend a lot of time and get nowhere.

In this hackathon, you’ll focus on the most important questions for a new venture, using best practices from design thinking, lean/startup, and agile. Darden faculty member Alex Cowan (an entrepreneur 5x) will set you on a course to do this and be available all weekend for consultation. At the end, you’ll present your findings and get advice on next steps. It’s a good chance to jump start things in a constructive direction. 

The worst possible thing that can happen to you is that you learn the skills that make innovative products and companies succeed. The best thing is that you get on a trajectory to create the next Facebook.

Where is it? When?

It’s August 22-23 (Sat.-Sun.) at the UVA iLab. Parking is available in back.

Do I have to have an idea?

No, you do not. Teams will be happy to have you- see below for more on how that works.

How do I know if my idea is a good fit?

If you think it’s a good idea, then it’s a good fit. See below on presenting it.

How do I present my idea?

Just describe what you think right now and what you see as your next steps. See the section below ‘SUBMITTING AN IDEA’ for a few specifics. 

Send that material to me ( and I’ll post it on a Google Doc whose address will be available to everyone who signs up (I’ll email you the address). I’ll only send the link to participants but it will be publicly available (though not indexed by Google).  If you don’t want your idea posted there please let me know. Regardless, completing the description below is a good first step if you’re bringing an idea. 

Is there a place where I can start to look at available projects beforehand?

Once you sign up, you’ll receive the address of the Google Doc above with the ideas from participants. 

Do I have to be there all day both days?

It’s very much OK to just come Saturday morning to hear about the ideas and mingle. If you do join a team or have an idea you want to pursue, you should plan to be working your idea from around 10am-6pm both days (if that work takes you outside the iLab, all the better- that’s fine). 

Do I have to sign up in advance?

We’d really appreciate it if you did. Seeing how many people sign up with what profiles is very helpful for tuning the event and practical matters like ordering the right amount of food.

How do I sign up?

Sign up form:

If I’m in the Software Design class (GBUS 8632)- do I have to go?

You don’t have to go, but if you want to bring an idea to class, this is a good way to get your idea ready for a team/the class and also to find a team if you don’t have one.

What if I have questions?

Drop me a line. I’d be happy to hear from you:

What’s going to happen during the two days?

The agenda’s below. The ‘executive summary’ is that we’ll do idea presentations and team formation Sat. AM, work Sat. & Sun. with optional workshops, and then close with presentations about progress and learning’s on Sunday at 5PM.



9:30 AM: Sign In and Mingling

10:00-10:30: Present Venture Ideas (3 min./each)

10:30-11:30: Team formation and start working

11:30-12:15: (Optional) Workshop- Solving the Right Problem with Design Thinking

12:15: Lunch

5:00-5:45: (OPTIONAL) Workshop- Don’t Guess- Experiment with Lean Startup


10:00-10:30 (OPTIONAL) Workshop- Mock Design Research Interview

12:15: Lunch

5:00-6:00PM: Final Presentations on Progress & Lessons Learned

Submitting an Idea

Please note: All of this is available on the sign-up form.

0. Your Name and Email

I’ll post these so that others can get in touch with you.

1. Positioning Statement

This is an overview statement on the business in the following format:

For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competitive alternative), our product (statement of primary differentiation).

2. Problem Area

What is your general area of interest with regard to the customer? What basic need(s) or task(s) do you want to handle for them?

3. Early Execution (aka MVP)

What would you like to create to test the idea? A trial run of the service? A piece of software? A Google AdWords campaign to test demand?

4. Anything Else?

Feel free to share anything else you think would be relevant to potential team participants. My advice is to keep it short, however- your potential teammates can always get in touch with you if they have more questions. 


August 22, 2015
August 23, 2015
Event Category:


UVA iLab
500 Nash Drive
Charlottesville, 22903
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